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Serum Institute of India delays vaccines for private sale in Bangladesh; focus on state campaigns

Beximco is Bangladesh's exclusive distributor of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca shot that SII, the world's biggest vaccine manufacturer, is producing in bulk for low- and medium-income countries.

February 04, 2021 / 02:47 PM IST
China is also expected to complete the mass inoculation programme by late next year. (Reuters)

China is also expected to complete the mass inoculation programme by late next year. (Reuters)

Bangladesh's Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd said on Thursday the Serum Institute of India (SII) had delayed the first supplies of a COVID-19 vaccine for private sale, instead prioritising government immunisation campaigns.

Beximco is Bangladesh's exclusive distributor of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca shot that SII, the world's biggest vaccine manufacturer, is producing in bulk for low- and medium-income countries.

The Bangladeshi company last week received 5 million of the 30 million doses it had ordered from SII for Bangladesh's immunisation programme that begins next week.

Beximco had separately ordered 1 million doses for sale on the private market, with the hope to start marketing it this month.

"However, the company has now been informed by SII that the first instalment (500,000 doses) of this supply will be delayed following a prioritisation on supplying vaccine doses for government mass vaccination programmes and WHO-led COVAX initiatives over private pay use," Beximco said in a regulatory filing.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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"It remains unclear how long this delay will last."

Beximco's chief operating officer told Reuters last month the company could buy up to 3 million doses of the vaccine from SII at about $8 each for sale on the private market.

The price is about twice the $4 per dose that Beximco had agreed for the government programme.

AstraZeneca has been embroiled in a dispute in Europe after it said it would have to cut supplies of its vaccine there in the first quarter.

The WHO has called for vaccines to be should be shared equitably and has urged countries them not to jostle for deliveries.
Reuters
first published: Feb 4, 2021 02:42 pm

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